Lizzy Millen had the second-best save percentage in the country after the field hockey team’s 6-0 win against Monmouth on Sept. 14.
But she didn’t know about it. She said she was more concerned about getting better.
“Half the time I don’t even know these stats, people just tell me,” the redshirt-junior goalkeeper and co-captain said. “I clearly don’t look at these things, but it’s really rewarding to hear that all of my work and our defensive work is really being praised.”
Millen, sitting in coach Amanda Janney’s office, then asked who was No. 1.
“Sarah Mansfield from [The University of Connecticut],” Janney said. “She’s really good.”
“I’m always about getting better,” Millen said. “So I hope to politely move in on her.”
At the same time, Temple looks to make a name for itself in the Big East Conference.
The Owls are 6-2 and are nationally ranked. Millen has been a big reason why. Not only is her .817 save percentage third in the nation, but she’s also held opponents to 1.58 goals per game and her saves per game average of 7.25 is 16th in the nation.
But her performance in goal this season is thanks in part to the adversity she overcame in the past.
Millen was a midfielder when she started playing in middle school. Her switch to goalkeeper was something she was forced into.
Millen’s team didn’t have a goalkeeper at the time, so the coach made her take up the position. At first, she said she hated it.
“It’s so boring at first,” Millen said. “I had such a short attention span at the age and I just wanted to run around, but I had to sit there and watch everyone else run around.”
“I literally came home and said ‘If I’m still playing goalie tomorrow, I’m not playing field hockey anymore,’” Millen added. “My mom told me to suck it up and keep playing and keep it out a little longer because I was being too dramatic, so I went back and kept playing, and here we are today.”
Eventually, Millen grew a liking to the position. She was having success, which she said helped get her to realize, “Alright, I can deal with this.”
But she said she began loving it when she got the chance to play at a faster and more competitive level.
“Once I started playing at the higher level with futures at the [National Futures Championship] and I saw how much faster and how much more competitive the game really is compared to field hockey at my middle school level, I realized that it is a lot more fun and something that I wanted to pursue,” Millen said.
Her family helped her pursue the sport, with her dad getting the college selection process started early on.
“My dad would be counting me sophomore year of high school, telling me ‘You got to figure out what college you want to go to,’” Millen said.
Her reply was simply, “Alright, slow down, old man.”
In the end, she chose Temple, the first school to contact her and the school that stayed in contact until she committed.
From the time of first contact up until the moment she committed, Millen was able to get to know the team and the coaching staff. It was a comfort that she said helped bring her to North Philadelphia.
Millen said her freshman year was rough when it finally rolled around, with health issues that led to her taking a redshirt.
“My first year was dreadful,” Millen said. “I couldn’t pass the running test and I was in and out with concussions my first year, so I really didn’t play too much, even in practice, because I was unable due to our running standards.”
“It was a letdown for me because I’m sure [the team] had higher expectations for my first year as did I, but that’s how it worked out,” Millen added. “But I think it made me a much stronger athlete for it. I was mentally able to handle a lot of adversity because of all the struggles I went through.”
Millen was able to bounce back, starting 21 of 22 games in 2011 and all 21 of the Owls’ games in 2012. So far in 2013, she looks to be having her best year yet.
Assistant coach Kelly Driscoll, a former goalkeeper for Old Dominion and a graduate assistant when she started working with Millen, said knew she could be one of the best in the nation.
“I told [Millen] that she does have the ability to be one of the top goalkeepers in the country,” Driscoll said. “All of her hard work has paid off over the years, and it’s exciting to see her have such a great year.”
“We’ve known that she is a great goalkeeper,” Driscoll added. “Now it’s fun to see the stats back it up.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.